Spaghetti And Meatballs Is Great For Dinner – How About Some Sauce?


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Some of you may be wondering what all of this outside-in process stuff is so I thought I would try to paint a simple picture for you. I have been either consulting or working in Corporate America for 26 years now. Most of that time I couldn’t see the forest through the trees, or the dinner through the spaghetti. I was delegated to my little part of the corporate world. However, unlike many in the working world, I was soon given the chance to see things at a higher level – first as a bank examiner and then as a consultant.

When I got into the private sector of banking, I was with one of the largest lending institutions in the country. We were crazy busy buying banks. While we could optimize operational efficiencies doing this, it was pretty much impossible to integrate the different credit and lending cultures. Each region I visited did just about whatever they wanted to, and it showed. I knew it was a problem, and fixing it was one of the initiatives in which I got to play a role. Still, it wasn’t registering as a real problem in most businesses.

Over the years in the CRM world, the picture began to solidify for me in the form of plate of spaghetti. Have you ever noticed how businesses are made up of different departments? Sure, we all notice that. But do you really know just how disconnected they are from each other? That’s not so easy to tell at first glance. After all, they’re all part of the same company, right?

I’ve begun looking at inside-out businesses as a plate of spaghetti. The meatballs are the silos – either functional silos or islands of untouchable data. These areas of the business may have hundreds of spreadsheets of data, piles of notebooks or their own operational software and database(s). The data serves the meatball, but the other meatballs can only access their data. And the plate is unable to pull all the data together to present information as the meal.

What happens when data lives like this is a tangle of human process. Process is designed around the needs of the meatball, I mean the data. The people become the protectors of the data over time and help the data by designing even more processes that are focused on the data, and on them. After all, they’ve become a close team and careers are being built here. At some point, someone tells them they need to connect with the other data / meatballs.

A twisted, tangled plate of spaghetti begins to form as the processes grow from within the cubicle. Slowly looking over the edge, seeking the next cubicle, and the next and the next. Finally, the hallway. A twisted mess of spaghetti inches its way down the hallways through doors seeking other meatballs. It’s a twisted delicious mess. And as the business grows, even more spaghetti grows – from where it’s impossible to tell.

And then it becomes too much. The plate simply cannot hold any more spaghetti and meatballs. Something has to be done. Your consultant arrives with a nice shiny box of the latest gadgetry – the stuff everyone is talking about. You simply have to have it! So, he slowly opens the box and let’s you have a sniff. Mmmmm. What is that Basil and Mushroom?

Yes, it’s spaghetti sauce and as promised it covers up the mess of entangled spaghetti and meatballs. For now. For now.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. A nice way of phrasing this Mike. It has a lot in common with the reason why “spaghetti code” is often called the computer programmer’s security blanket because nobody (except the original programmer) can figure out what the tangled mess is actually supposed to do!

  2. Hi Mike

    Your years in banking are showing through. You did not mention the word ‘customer’ one single time in your post.

    Did I miss something? Or more to the point, did you?

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  3. Graham,

    No, I didn’t miss anything – nice jab at bankers! I didn’t want to discuss the solution and the problem (symptom) at the same time. I was trying to put an image of the symptom of an inside-out organiztion in the mind of the reader. Just basic. Some people need to see that before you can begin the conversation about the customer’s perspective. I see ALOT of spaghetti in my job and it would be a waste to discuss something they obviously don’t get. Baby steps.

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM


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